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TORONTO, July 18 (Reuters) – Equinox Minerals (EQN.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Friday its Lumwana copper mine in Zambia will start production in December, following a fire at the site’s processing plant. 

Equinox had originally hoped production would start at the end of July or the beginning of August, but announced two weeks ago that a fire had damaged a power transformer and substation, leading to delays. 

Lumwana, which is expected to be Africa’s largest open-pit copper mine, should hit full production in May or June 2009 with annual output of 169,000 tonnes of copper concentrate, Equinox Vice-President of Investor Relations Kevin van Niekerk said. 

“The important thing for us here is the company is insured with its policies for items like materials damage and delay in start-up,” he told Reuters. 

The company’s shares, which were halted before the news was released, were up 9 Canadian cents at C$3.80 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. 

Copper mining is a key part of Zambia’s economy and a major employer. (Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Peter Galloway)